4

It was a wonderful show.

Are the following two meanings both possible and intuitivily right?

  1. The show ends before this sentence is said, and the speaker think it is wonderful while saying this sentence.

  2. The show was wonderful before, but it is no longer wonderful now.

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    I think I always understand it as #1. To mean #2, I think it should be "The show was (still) wonderful (a moment ago)." – Damkerng T. May 10 '14 at 18:07
  • @DamkerngT. Is it correct to say "It is a wonderful show" when talking to others after watching? – CYC May 10 '14 at 18:10
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    It depends. It could be alright if you choose to tell the event in "narrative present" (search for it on ELL for more information). It's usually safer for learners to tell an event in the past in the past tenses. – Damkerng T. May 10 '14 at 18:14
  • In the case of #2, it could be like "The show was wonderful before, but it is no longer wonderful now because the lead performer was replaced." in the case of a long running show. – user3169 May 10 '14 at 20:27
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It could mean either depending on how it's said. Generally it will mean that the show is now finished and the speaker thinks it's wonderful. If emphasis is put on 'was', the meaning changes to mean that it was wonderful before but now it's not.

The second meaning will usually only appear in informal settings and would probably never appear in print without some form of emphasis on 'was'.

The difference between 'is a wonderful show' and 'was a wonderful show' is more complex and depends on context.

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2

They are both possible, but #2 is not intuitive unless the person emphasized "was" and there was some obvious reason to the listener why the speaker no longer thinks it's any good.

For example:

All the electricity goes out in the middle of the show. Then it comes on. Then it goes off again.

"Well, it was a wonderful show."

This could be called dry, ironic, or sarcastic humor. In general, emphasis on a word can appeal to the meaning of that word in contrast to the alternative. So in this case, "was (but no longer is)".

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